Obama in Kenya
posted on Wednesday, November 05, 2008 12:47 PM
Barack Obama's Kenyan relatives erupted in cheers Wednesday, singing "We are going to the White House!" as Obama swept to victory as America's first black president.
Africans across the continent celebrated the historic win, staying up all night or waking before dawn to cheer Obama on.
In the western village of Kogelo, where the president-elect's late father was born, Obama's step-grandmother and other relatives poured out of their rural homestead to celebrate a man seen by many Kenyans as a "son of the soil." Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday on Thursday in honor of Obama.
"Unbelievable!" said Obama's half brother Malik, leading the family in chanting, "Obama's coming, make way!"
Across Africa, many are hoping an Obama presidency will help this vast continent, the poorest in the world. Some are looking for more U.S. aid to Africa, others simply bask in the glory of a successful black politician with African roots.
"He's in!" said Rachel Ndimu, 23, a Kenyan business student who joined hundreds of others for an election party at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, which began at 5 a.m.
"I think this is awesome, and the whole world is backing him," Ndimu said as people raised glasses of champagne.
In Uganda, university students burned tires and hoisted bottles of beer in celebration. Amos Kisita, holding up an Obama poster in a suburb of the capital, Kampala, said he was going to celebrate for "two days, nonstop."
Obama was born in Hawaii, where he spent most of his childhood reared by his mother, a white American from Kansas. He barely knew his late father. But that has not stopped "Obamamania" from sweeping the continent, and particularly Kenya, where his picture adorns billboards and minibuses.
"If it were possible for me to get to the United States on my bicycle, I would," said Joseph Ochieng, a 36-year-old carpenter who was celebrating in Nairobi's Kibera shantytown, one of Africa's largest slums.
Samuel Ouma, 36, said Obama's victory alleviated some of the pain suffered in December after Kenya's disastrous presidential election, which unleashed weeks of violence here.
"God has rewarded us triplefold," added Ouma's friend, Kennedy Obdiero.
Ranneberger, the U.S. ambassador, said Kenyans' love for Obama was palpable.
"With the media coverage over the past few weeks, I sometimes thought this was a Kenyan election," he told more than 500 people who gathered at his home, watching flat-screen TVs set up in the sprawling garden.
Gibson Gaitho, 14, said he does not believe an Obama presidency will change his life, but he said he was inspired by the incredible rise of a man with Kenyan roots.
"As Kenyans we feel proud," said Gaitho, who watched the results with scores of other schoolchildren at Ranneberger's party before heading back to class on a school bus. "Because of Obama, I know — you work hard, you achieve."
Associated Press writers Elizabeth A. Kennedy and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report